Continued from Part 1

People and Process

I think the real trick to leadership and correspondingly actual fulfillment doing the work (team member) is to have the right balance of scripting and freedom to choose how you accomplish the work.

Script the things that don’t require creativity, are repetitive, or are really important to follow exactly the same process. Surgeons scrubbing for surgery have a predefined process. They don’t reinvent it each time. This saves having to think about it or the risk of making mistakes.

The same holds true during change. Because you are changing behavior it is sometimes necessary to script the method of doing something until it becomes the new habit. It doesn’t stop there though; you need to reinforce the new habit. If it is a big habit change you need to break it into pieces and praise compliance with each (any) of the steps, even though people might not do it all correctly at the start.

People need (crave) a certain amount of autonomy in their work. Much of today’s work involves knowledge work or creative work; the method of accomplishing the work is not clear at the outset or it is “one of”, never to be repeated. Define the beginning and clearly define the desired outcome and let the team determine the solution. You can define a creative process to make sure any critical steps are covered including any management oversight. You may even want to create or customize the process to suit each situation.

In software development this may include: talk to the customer, rough out a solution, work with customer to refine solution, build production code, formal testing and quality assurance, sign-off by customer. Within that framework the team has a lot of latitude to innovate.

There is a danger with too much scripting. It sounds artificial when interacting with people. Zappos did away with scripts and timed calls and lets its call center have real conversations with people, trusting them to do the right things (culture and values).

As a final thought; don’t set a process and make it rigid. You should be constantly having the team look for better ways of doing things; even the ones you take for granted. “That is way things are done here.” should become “That is the way things are done here for now”.

Culture and Leadership

Rally the herd.

The culture you create as a business will largely determine what you can and cannot do as a team; in both rigid and subtle ways.

Culture should flow from your core values and mission and should reinforce any implementations of your vision and goals. You cannot violate your mission and core values and be true to yourself. This is the line in the sand you and your team will not cross.

You can tweak your culture to support your new goals as long as they don’t compromise your mission or core values. People naturally will try to fit in with a group. We are naturally wired to do so. I am not talking sheep type fitting in here either. But this desire to run with the herd and be respected by your peers is very powerful.

Culture is constantly evolving… what is the norm today will be different tomorrow. You might as well try to change it in helpful ways.

Leadership comes from two sources: hierarchical and situational. The management team is certainly important to building a great business or supporting change.

But so is that grass roots leadership… the parts where people are either on board or bucking change.

If you want to change the development process, you can dictate the new process from above and try to brute force your way through. Or you can get the support of one or more natural leaders on the development team, the ones that are most vocal or others look up to. If so you will be much more likely to succeed. Give these people time and space to convince the rest of the team. These types of changes happen faster in small groups until majority is achieved.

And hey, if you have the whole team on board from the get go? Count your blessings as now you only have to wrestle the normal human flaws we all have and not the castle walls and moat that are erected to resist change.

The goal is to get the business to the point where the management team only needs to oversee the work and remove roadblocks.. the work would continue to get done without much guidance and would be accomplished to the levels defined by the business… self-guiding and self-managing.


All this to say that if you can get the group aligned and heading in the same direction… momentum will increase and you can accomplish great things. This is the goal of all great companies.

Shape the path and build a business that reinforces success.